Friday, September 5, 2008

Finish It?

Now normally, this is where I post the weekly writing or publishing tips for A Book Inside—and today, I will do the same, but with a twist! My topic will be “finish it?”

It amazes me how many of us writers start projects with tremendous enthusiasm just to work, work, work and then drop the project into a little metal file box and forget about it, only to accidentally locate the work a year later and mumble to ourselves, “why didn’t I ever finish this, it would have made a great book.” Why we do it?—I don’t know, but personally, I have a full box!

Do we need to be inspired to write? I say yes. But with any long-term project, there will almost always be times we feel like “putting it away.” Maybe we should fight those thoughts and aggresivly move on through them until we feel inspired again. Or maybe we don’t need to finish those projects. Is the joy of writing itself enough for us to be satisfied? The answer isn’t clear.

I want to share a note I received from my second cousin in Texas. She has authored more than 7 books, and probably 10 more unfinished. But read on if you want to find that inspiration.

Graduation 2008

“I was simply led along, from the first course to the next course to the last course, not from dogged determination, not from any deep seated desire to “get a college education,” but from something indefinable that led me to start and finally to finish, for this is what I do—I finish what I start.

I thought at first it was for my children and grandchildren, for their love and admiration poured out to me in words and a show of affection that overwhelmed me, in grand gestures that made all the work worthwhile. For Courtney, my beautiful and talented granddaughter who will forever be sixteen, whose last words to me were, “Keep up your grades, Grandmother.”

But then I began to hear from other people, many whom I did not know. A few reporters and television crews hovered around, and briefly for a day I was news, an 89-year-old great grandmother who graduated from college.

So here I am, not ready to rest on my laurels. Rebecca gave me a necklace with the inscribed words, “Ancora Imparo,” which translates to “yet I am learning.” In the last few years of Michelangelo’s life, these words were scribbled in the margin of his sketches in celebration of lifelong learning, as I hope to continue to do.

Ah yes, I could start on a Masters of Science in Human Development & Family Studies (with emphasis on Gerontology--the study of aging). I've had experience in these, and it sounds rather simple, 36 hours, Internet based, no GRE required. However, when I mentioned this, my family got real quiet, and all the color drained from their faces.

Instead, I’ll finish writing a history book I started a year or so ago, and until I sink into the deep state of senility, I may give some motivational talks, to tell those who are too tired, or “Oh, I’m too old,” to challenge them to dust off their goals and dreams and dive into fulfilling work, (but not necessarily to gain a college degree), and to say to them, “Yes, you can.”

Elleta Nolte, age 89

Want more? Read on…

“Chances are that I may be a rarity among my fellow graduates this May for many of them will leave the campus and scarcely look back, as did six of my nine children who earned degrees from Texas Tech. And I’m sure I’m among the rare ones who will sense the loss of lugging around heavy textbooks and will keep a pile of them on the coffee table, books to be picked up and browsed through again. And again.

Perhaps rare, indeed, are 89-year old graduates such as I, who will miss being a part of a prime university such as TexasTech. I leave it with a rich store of knowledge and memories and experiences, ones I will take out and savor the rest of my life for however long or short that might be.

I have stayed the course through difficult times while attending classes for I have lived another full life along with the demanding one of being a college student, all adding to the length of time but of equal importance. I’ve suffered the heartache at the loss of my beautiful and talented sixteen-year-old granddaughter Courtney and that of my beloved husband in 2007 after 63 eventful and fulfilling years together. He and I took memorable trips during the “schooling.” We traveled twice to Europe, once to Canada and New England and other places. I’ve written two books of regional history along with articles and presentations within that time. And along with my courses, we sold our house in Ransom Canyon and built and moved to another one in Lubbock. And I’ve also given quality time to my family, including twenty grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

As a student I’ve been accepted by the “other kids” and the instructors as just another student, another body (although in a course in communications my professor was a bit startled to have a student older than radio). I’ve felt comfortable in the classroom. When I enrolled as a freshman it never entered my mind but that I could learn as well as the young students. And learn I did, finishing with a quite respectable GPA. The courses enabled me to pursue history, English and behavioral sciences, all favorite courses.

There’s been comic relief… In the beginning, students looked at me and asked, “Masters?” and I’d answer “Freshman.” Others asked in a puzzled tone, “Why, why are you doing this?” Or, “What will you do with it?” One student asked, “Just how old are you anyhow?” And I laughed and answered, “I know that some of you students look at me and think, “Whoa…is it going to take me that long.”

Recently students have asked me a serious question, important to them, ”Have you found a job yet?”

Sure, my Internet sources would give me facts on subjects I’ve taken but what a difference…I remember my first semester when I stood at the window of the second floor of the English building and looked out across the campus with tears in my eyes as I thought, ‘I am a college student, this is my campus, my building…what a privilege.’

Here I am, at last, learning a little about who I am and what I am and what I can do. It inspires me to achieve other I hope it does Rebecca. I wanted to graduate from college with one of my grandchildren, but seven did not wait for me. God is working on Rebecca and me; for some special reason we finished together. I believe that God gives us each a path in life, lined with doors, and we have a choice whether or not to enter them and then only if our heart and mind are open. I’ve finished this portion of that path, and I’m ready and quite willing to start my next assignment. I believe we’re never too old for our next career, however humble that might be.

I share my graduation with my granddaughter Courtney. She was at our house a few weeks before she died, and as she went out the door, she turned and said, ‘Keep up your grades, Grandmother.’
I’ve done that, Courtney.”

Elleta Nolte, May 2008


Anonymous said...

I'm glad I read the post about finishing what you start. I have finished three mystery novels, published two of them (Genesis Beach and Just North of Luck), and have a release date of February 2009 for the third, Hell Swamp. The fourth one, however, is spread out across a large table in disarray. I tinker with it but can't seem to finish it. I have others in boxes, waiting for their turn.
This morning I'm going for my walk and when I return, I'll grab a big cup of coffee and return to the task with vigor! Thank you for the shove.

Carol said...

Since this was written in May and it's now about October, you may not see it, but I love you. I've been whining about being over 65 and trying to have a writing career this late-break into print fiction with all the kids. I guess I'd better just suck it up, shut up and keep writing. I do have two ebook novels out there and several textbooks. If I can keep writing for the next 25 years like you, I too can make my goals. I want to be you when I grow up.